The Central government has opposed a petition filed before Supreme Court seeking priority Covid-19 vaccination for judges, court staff, lawyers, and their staff.
In an affidavit filed before the top court, the Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Manohar Agnani told the Court that it would not be desirable to create a separate class consisting of lawyers and judges as it could be discriminatory towards persons engaged in other trade or profession.
The affidavit said that lawyers and staff who are above 60 years of age or are above 45 years old with co-morbidities are anyways covered by the present vaccination drive.
“It may not be desirable to create a separate class consisting of lawyers and others below 45 years of age discriminating persons engaged in other trade, profession or business and working under similar geographic conditions and circumstances,” the affidavit said.
The affidavit was filed in a public interest litigation petition filed by one Arvind Singh seeking inclusion of judges, lawyers, and court staff in the priority list for COVID-19 vaccination.
Regarding giving vaccines to foreign nations, the government clarified that only those vaccines are exported which are beyond the manpower and infrastructural facilities available for administration of the same.
The Delhi High Court had, on February 4, rejected a PIL which sought a direction to the government authorities to forthwith include judges, judicial staffs, advocates, clerks and the members of the legal fraternity in first phase of COVID-19 vaccination
But subsequently, it had registered a suo motu case in this regard based on a letter by Bar Council of Delhi seeking declaration of persons associated with judicial functioning as frontline workers.
A similar PIL is also pending before the Bombay High Court. However, both the Delhi and Bombay High Courts had deferred hearing in those matters after it was brought to their notice that a transfer petition has been filed before the Supreme Court on the issue by one of the vaccine manufacturers, Bharat Biotech seeking transfer of similar matters from various High Courts to the Supreme Court.
When the plea of Arvind Singh came up for hearing on Monday, the Supreme Court queried whether the matter should be heard by it or be sent to one of the High Courts.
Senior Advocate Harish Salve, representing manufacturer, Serum Institute of India, submitted that the matter needs to be settled by the Supreme Court since it has pan-India implications.
The Court then proceeded to list the plea by Arvind Singh along with the transfer petition for hearing on March 18.